EAST meets West in the North in this new comedy receiving its first stage outing at the Octagon - and what a delight it is.

Too often comedies try too hard to be edgy or 'out there' so it's a real pleasure to come across a production that has real heart and real laughs.

A semi-autobiographical piece by Shamia Chalabi who co-wrote the script with Sarah Henley, Habibti Driver is basically a story about family.

The Bolton News: Shamia Chalabi as Shazia in Habibti Driver (Picture: Pamela Raith)

Shamia plays Shazia, daughter of an Egyptian father and English mother who was born and grew up in Wigan. Dad Ashraf - wonderfully played by Dana Haqjoo - can only ever see Shazia as his little girl and can't accept that she appears to have turned her back on her Muslim heritage.

Oh, and he's also gone and re-married while on a trip to Egypt with his new wife Yasmin on her way to Wigan.

Shazia meanwhile is soon to marry Chris - Timothy O'Hara - but has yet to tell her father.

Shamia's personal story gets world premiere at Octagon

Habibti Driver - 'habibti' is a term of endearment and Ashraf is a taxi driver - will connect with every audience member regardless of their background. It celebrates the fact that families are inherently dysfunctional and revels in the laughs that brings.

Even the set is interesting; effectively we get to witness a veritable car seat ballet as scenes change, with Ashraf's taxi at the heart of much of the production.

The characters are really well observed - it would have been so easy for them to fall into caricature - and you feel that in some ways you know every one of them.

The Bolton News: Shamia Chalabi as Shazia, Helen Sheals as JEan and Timothy O'Hara , Chris in Habibti Driver (Picture: Pamela Raith)

It's a very strong cast - Helen Sheals as Jean, Shazia's ex-wife is pure Wigan; Houda Echouafni as Yasmin is feisty and funny; Timothy O'Hara as Chris is particularly convincing as the loving but hapless fiance guaranteed to put his foot in it and Hemi Yeroham as Yusuf, Ashraf's kid brother is part villain of the piece but also quite sweet.

But it's the relationship between Shazia and her father that runs through the whole piece. There is a genuine warmth between the two characters in spite of their differences and the ending is both hilarious and surprisingly moving.

There are some great one-liners and you're never too far away from a real belly laugh. But as well as the humour, you'll also enjoy the genuine warmth that's at the heart of the play.

Habibti Driver is at the Octagon until Saturday, May 7. Catch it while you can. Details from www.octagonbolton.co.uk